A Buried Secret: Leadership Asheville Ethics Case Studies #6

A description of this discussion can be found here.
An brief overview of the If Aristotle Were Mayor presentation given prior to this discussion can be found here.

A Buried Secret
A city employee in the waste management department has come to you. While taking an evening earth science course at the local community college, she stumbled across some potentially explosive information. Through research for a paper on contaminated ground water, she discovered the college’s new central administration building was situated on top of a large hazardous waste dump that had never been cleaned up.

The employee has expressed her concern with her earth science instructor, who informed the department head, who informed the dean, who informed the vice president, who informed the president. Now, months later, word has come back by the same route that the administration is unwilling to excavate on the strength of unsupported allegations by a student.

She also suspects that the former mayor was aware of the problem during the bidding and construction process but conspired in a cover-up to protect the donor of the land, a wealthy businessman who is now the U.S. representative from your district.

She wants to know what you think should be done. How do you respond?

Holkeboer, Robert and Thomas Hoeksema A Casebook for Student Leaders

LA23 Core Learning Group #6:

To Be Updated


Pollution: Leadership Asheville Ethics Case Studies #5

A description of this discussion can be found here.
An brief overview of the If Aristotle Were Mayor presentation given prior to this discussion can be found here.

Under the Federal Clean Air Act, private businesses and governmental agencies that succeed in keeping their emissions below the permissible limits dictated by the Environmental Protection Agency can earn pollution credits. Holders of these credits can sell them to other organizations that have trouble keeping their emissions within the limits, or can retire them permanently, thus reducing the potential of further pollution. State agencies in New York have amassed millions of dollars in pollution credits. Recently the state has sought to lure businesses to New York by offering the credits for free. That is, if a company agrees to set up a plant or office in New York then the state will give them some of the pollution credits that it (the state) has earned. This new approach for attracting business into the State of New York in highly controversial. Widespread protests forced the state of Maine to back away from a similar approach.

North Carolina is considering similar legislation. As an elected official, you have been asked to take a position on this issue and you know that you will be called upon by state legislators to defend your position. How will you respond?
© Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, author Robert F. Ladenson

LA23 Core Learning Group #5:

As an elected official, we felt we must take a position, rather than suggest
a process. Our hope is that a process that had vetted all viewpoints had
taken place at some point previous.

We would oppose a measure designed to incentivize business to relocate or
establish itself in the state with the promise of Clean Air credits.

1. While there is the potential of attracting more jobs in the short term,
the long term health and environmental consquences cannot be overlooked. We
cannot support any proposal that would mortgage the future health of this
area for the potential short-term economic gains.

2. The community we want to create is one that supports innovation, as well
as a healthy long-term environment. We can do both by requiring companies
that do business in the state to be Clean Air compliant.

We want to create a community that is viable well into the future, where
citizens can grow and flourish for years to come, without worry.


Free Speech and the Klan: Leadership Asheville Ethics Case Studies #4

A description of this discussion can be found here.
An brief overview of the If Aristotle Were Mayor presentation given prior to this discussion can be found here.

Free Speech and the Klan
Seeking your perspective as Mayor, a student writing a paper on the Constitutional Amendments has sought you out to comment on a controversial application of the First Amendment. The “Adopt-A-Highway” programs began in Texas in 1985 to enlist the help of private citizens and organizations to keep highways clean. The program allows an individual or, more typically, an organization to take responsibility for cleaning up and beautifying a stretch of highway that it “adopts.” In recognition of this effort, the name of the organization is posted on a sign along the highway, indicating that particular stretch of the highway is maintained by that organization. Similar programs now exist in most other states and have proven to be an effective way for states to save money and keep highways clean.

In 1994 the Ku Klux Klan submitted an application for Missouri’s “Adopt-A-Highway” program, but was denied on the grounds that the Klan had a history of violating anti-discrimination laws and committing violent acts against individuals from racial minorities. However, the Klan sued, arguing that Missouri’s rejection of it application violated its right to free speech under the First Amendment. The lower courts ruled in its favor. Senior U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh, in St. Louis, stated that “the state unconstitutionally denied the Klan’s application based on the Klan’s views.” Hence, in November of 2000, signs went up designating a one-mile stretch of Interstate 55 south of St. Louis as having been adopted by the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan seemed to have selected that particular section of I-55 because it is used for bussing St. Louis black students to county schools under a court-ordered desegregation program. In a symbolic response to the KKK, Missouri passed a bill to name that section of I-55 “Rosa Parks Highway” in honor of the famous civil rights heroine.

Missouri’s subsequent appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was joined by 28 other states arguing that a highway sign acknowledging the Klan suggests an implicit acceptance of the Klan and gratitude for its participation. However, forming an unusual alliance, the Klan found legal representation in the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU attorneys representing the Klan successfully argued that the First Amendment protects the organization “against those who would misuse government power to suppress political dissidents.” How would you respond?
© Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, author Robert F. Ladenson

LA23 Core Learning Group #4:


Local Business: Leadership Asheville Ethics Case Studies #2

A description of this discussion can be found here.
An brief overview of the If Aristotle Were Mayor presentation given prior to this discussion can be found here.

Local Business
The press has called for your comment on a story developing around a business in your community. The facts are that four of the original owners of a metal fabricating company are selling out to the fifth owner. The company has been successful and after 25 years, employs 250 people in the plant and 150 in the office. In evaluating the company, the new sole owner sees much duplication: 5 accountants could do the job that 20 now handle. In every office department, the company has over hired. Cutting back would dramatically improve the company’s profits. But the company is a small, close-knit community and the employees have long service records and are extremely loyal. The reporter wants to know what you would do if placed in this position. What do you say?
© Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, author Robert F. Ladenson

LA23 Core Learning Group #2:

1. People vs. Profit?

2. Are people fulfilled? Is it good to keep people in unfulfilling positions?

3. Strategic point of view: long term health of company to employ some people?
Use tactics like severance attrition, retraining, move to other jobs (office - mfg), put employees in process.
PR issues - how are cuts perceived even if good decisions or well-intentioned?
Can use profit to improve position/ compensation of remaining employees - not "more for me, less for all of you," but rather "we all share in gain."
Need to get buy-in employees & community
To press: long term health of community is more complex than just keeping extra staff on payrool.


The Job Application: Leadership Asheville Ethics Case Studies #1

A description of this discussion can be found here.
An brief overview of the If Aristotle Were Mayor presentation given prior to this discussion can be found here.

The Job Application
A former colleague has come to you for confidential advice. He is a recent widower with three children who has no close friends or family in the area. A severe recession has left him jobless for 18 months. His skills are not in demand. Six months ago he started looking outside his field, increasingly willing to take anything. But even minimum wage positions were scarce and did not pay enough for one person to live on, much less four. He is deep in debt and has filed for bankruptcy. He is three months overdue on the rent and has been served with an eviction notice. He has been trying to keep a cheerful, hopeful attitude for the children, who so far don’t know the extent of the family’s woes.

Now a job he applied for 12 months ago has come up. The salary is higher than any he’s ever received and the benefits package would cover his whole family. He was told the choice is between him and one other person, but he has to swear in writing that he has never taken illegal drugs. Trouble is, he has. He used to smoke marijuana, not a lot, but regularly. He has never taken any other illegal drug, and he doesn’t use marijuana anymore either. He has asked you whether he should lie on the application or not. What do you say?
© Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, author Robert F. Ladenson

LA23 Core Learning Group #1:
1. Core Issue:
Does your friend lie on a job application for the goal of gaining a much needed job?

2. As a friend, do you advise yoru friend to lie on the application or to tell the truth?

3. Explain that every choice your friend makes in life defines who he is. How will the choice he makes define him as a person, father, employee, etc? Ask him how he wants his life to be so that he "lives well." What does "well" mean to him? Which choice would mesh wiht his philosophy of living well?


Leadership Asheville Ethics Discussion

Leadership Asheville 23, a community leadership program from UNC-Asheville, spent time recently considering a number of scenarios that required them to think and dialogue as civic leaders. Those scenarios and the core learning groups responses will be posted here for continued comment and discussion.

A recap of the presentation called If Aristotle Were Mayor will be posted separately.

Each core learning group was asked to reflect upon the situation, answer the following questions and report back to the whole group.

The questions for discussion were.

1. Determine the core issue of the situation.

2. Describe for us the ethical dilemma, the leadership choices.

3. Provide us a solution, a course of action, that results in creating an environment or a community that enables people to live well.

You can find the Case Studies at:

1. The Job Application
2. Local Business
3. Boycotting Convention Cities
4. Free Speech and the Klan
5. Pollution
6. A Buried Secret
7. The Sikh Temple

Many thanks to Gerry Goertz, director, Lead WNC, the community leadership program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and his staff, Jaime Head and Laura Shiver for assembling these excellent case studies

Decision paralysis or decisive advancement?

One of the central demands of leadership is decision-making. Anyone who leads an organization understands that the environment for decison-making is becoming more complex, that change is accelerating and in ways unforeseen a decade ago, and that the impact of globalism and the war on terrorism is changing even how local small businesses make decisions

I've been looking at the various link streams that connect to Col. John Boyd's OODA military strategy system.

Here are various military strategy sites that expand or illustrate how the services are treating strategy and decision-making on the battlefied.

...Boyd and Military Strategy ...
War, Chaos, and Business ...
Net-centric warfare ....
MindSim ...
"Net-Centric Warfare Is Changing the Battlefield Environment" ...

The level of sophistication that has developed here, can only happen effectively in an organizational structure where there are clearly defined roles and responsibilities and a high level of organizational discipline. Where this is lacking, this approach is much more difficult.

The academic discipline of decison analysis has emerged to assist organizations in dealing with the growing complexity of running an organization. A visit to the Decision Analysis Society site can give you an indication of the issues that academics are addressing.

In Dietrich Dorner's fascinating book, The Logic of Failure, the inadequacy of traditional decision-making approaches is illustrated.

David Woods at the Center of Ergonomics at Ohio State University is doing interesting research on the relation between people, technology, and work. Watch his Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 1999 president address and listen to him speak of the challenges his field faces as technology expands the range of what people can do, but not necessarily in a manner that makes it easier. The role of technology in decision-making is making it more difficult for those leaders who have not learned how to use it effectively to keep up with those who do.

So, what do all these links and streams of ideas mean for organizational leaders?

1. It means we can't make decision based on convenience or my comfort. We have to learn to use systems like Boyd's OODA's to help us manage the information we need to make effective decisions.

2. It means that the tools for leaders are expanding, but not necessarily in a manner that makes it simpler or easier to lead. Where do leaders learn to use these new tools?

3. It means that whatever we thought about leadership is changing, and changing in ways that we cannot imagine.

4. It means, and I think this is very important, that we can no longer as leaders of organizations, think by ourselves. The need to communicate and collaborate with other leaders and organizations is becoming more imperative with the changes happening in knowledge, organizations, and society, on both a local and a global scale.

5. It means that we have to develop a mental and emotional hardiness to face these challenges. And we cannot do it alone. Whether you develop new communication/decision-making skills internally, or you develop an external collaborative group to support decision-making in your individual organizations, you have to do something. Leaders who become paralyzed by the complexity and rapidity of making serious, unalterable, quick decisions will begin to lose ground to their competitors.

We can either throw up our hands and give up in a state of operational paralysis, or, we can decide that each day, I will learn what is required to be a leader in the 21st century.

Its do or die time for most of us.